Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Urban Fabric of Post-Apartheid Africa

-Hourmazd Farhadi-

Since the abolition of Apartheid in 1994, the South African government has been saddled with the job of redeeming the social and urban structure of Cape Town, which still bears the aftermath of the apartheid years in its identity as well as its planning.

Due to the segregation that was entrenched in South African society at the time, the apartheid city was dominated by a pattern of low-density, largely single-storey housing for white people, with high density slums occurring in pockets of land where there would be informal housing and constraints on land availability for the native blacks.

Because of the sprawl of the neighborhoods, as well as the regulatory control and spatial allocation of the British planning system in Cape Town, there was a lack of community identity and connection between the different neighborhoods of the city.
The urban fabric was fragmented and discontinuous, with neighborhoods frequently separated by buffers of immense open space, infrequently bridged by roads. Different land uses were greatly separated, so it would be a journey to travel from residence to work, or even to school.

The Solution that the post-apartheid urban planners suggested for the renovation of the social and urban fabric of Cape Town was to essentially establish a balance between the primeval nature, the rural, and the urban. The best land would be used for conservation, setting aside the worst to improve the diversity and complexity of the city.

Urban environments would be created in the large spaces of unnatural buffers between settlements, easily accessible by foot (or, preferably, a well-developed transportation system). Also, the hope was to increase the density of the residential areas in order to counteract the urban sprawl of the one-storey neighborhoods. This would also be a prerequisite for an effective transportation system.

In conclusion, in order to tie the urban structure of the city and its people together without the poison of racism or segregation, it would be necessary to create more public environments and more closely-built settlements, which would in effect also make the possibility of creating an effective transportation system much more feasible.

Osmanovic, Armin. Transforming South Africa. Hamburg: Institut für Afrika-Kunde.
Bhorat, Haroon, and Ravi Kanbur. "Poverty and Policy in Post Apartheid South Africa." (2006).

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Traversing the Plane - II

-Jeff Nadeau-

Okay. Getting to a set of general principles, exemplified by previously-discussed modes of transport that seem more or less suited to the unplanned or underplanned urban environment, that may guide the creation of a survival kit.

Ease of maintenance. Where investment is hard to secure, and as a result of the perennial struggle to keep up with demand on limited resources, infrastructure has to have a long service life. Maintaining any kind of economic viability (particularly working with the narrow margins frequently encountered in subsistence urbanity) means downtime has to be minimized.

It is important for the machine in question, then, to be mechanically simple- as are most small motorcycles- and to have a plentiful parts supply such that components are affordable and easy to find, as is the case with the Toyota Corolla.

Local autonomy means not waiting for a central office, general policies, remote technician or foreign intervention. Partially a matter of ease of maintenance, such that a local handyman can fix a Honda C90 without the input of Honda-certified mechanics. In a marginalized community, the ability to do without outside help or expertise makes the difference between empowerment and dependence.

Not to attempt to make myself redundant here, but the ultimate urban survival kit- where promoting self-sufficiency is a priority- would include solutions that could be put into action by the illiterate and the unskilled as easily as by architects and engineers.

Redundancy. The reason the publicar works better than a similarly extensive bus system is that several old compact cars can be had for the price of one bus, and where gaps occur the system is not unduly burdened. If a single car breaks down- as they inevitably will over a lengthy service life- only four to six passengers are set back, and not fifty as would be the case in a bus.

I was surprised this week to find out that Santo Domingo completed and opened its subway line this year. This is fantastic news, considering in 2006 it didn't look like it would ever be finished. Then I think of the innumerable
blackouts that the city suffers. Is it really a good idea to put large numbers of commuters underground and at the mercy of one system relying on numerous other unreliable systems?

Similarly, a shelter designed for subsistence urbanity cannot be overly specific and reliant on particular building materials or site characteristics or adjacent services which may or may not be present. For implementation in an atmosphere of shortages and fixed resources, solutions need to have some tolerance for variation in their execution.

Cost. This one is obvious but ought to be addressed for the sake of completeness.

Just to tie this in to a previously-mentioned issue- in addition to the questionable reliability of the Santo Domingo metro system there is also the question of the exorbitant expenses involved in its construction and the likely operating costs. With the dire state of education and security in the city, and the more or less functional network of
motoconcho, publicars and guagua providing affordable transportation, could those millions not have been better spent?

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Roof, Road, and River

-Samuel Ganton-

The world as we know it is coming to an end. But it has been coming to an end every moment for centuries. The world is a very dynamic thing, constantly changing form, and it is naïve to think that something is permanent because it exists now.

Objects or situations may be thought of not only as what they are, but as part of a continuing journey. The philosopher Aristotle viewed objects as manifestations of change, as ‘pauses’ in a progression of materials and ideas through time and space, linked by a web of causation.

Our cities may be on the verge of revolutionary changes to their traditional systems of organization. We have much to learn from those who have been leading subsistence-based lives, and from the solutions they have created for themselves.

Everything intentional happens for a purpose, a definite cause, and the innovations of slum-dwellers and squatter communities are driven by basic needs. Three of the most necessary things are shelter, adequate transportation, and a clean water supply. One might refer to this as the search for a Roof, a Road, and a River.

Most newcomers to urban areas in the developing world are unable to take part in the official economy. They must create everything on their own – an unofficial economy of small service and supply businesses is awakened. There are many examples of how this ‘informal sector’ has been able to organize itself, perhaps with some support from outside, to provide basic infrastructure for its own constituent people.

One example comes from the community of Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya. One of the largest slum areas in the world, Kibera has minimal public water supplies. Much of the population is forced to buy water from vendors, who sell it at extremely high prices.

Watch a video about the situation at:

The Kenya Water for Health Organization, based in Nairobi, is working to change the situation from within. It is banding together groups of women in the community who can buy and sell water, keeping prices far lower than those of the vendors. In the neighborhood of Makina, they have been able to connect supply tanks to the water mains outside Kibera.

In areas farther from direct supply, and when even the water mains are contaminated, a simple method of sanitation called SODIS is practiced. This process of solar disinfection involves placing bottles of contaminated water in direct sunlight for six hours. According to testing, ultraviolet rays sanitize the water as effectively as boiling or chemical treatments.
This method may seem somewhat dangerous to us, with our recent suspicions of plastic bottles. However, in subsistence living, nothing is perfect. It just has to work.

The lack of access to direct water supply in some areas of Kibera, and the necessity for water vendors, highlights another important characteristic of subsistence-based communities. They are defined by physical boundaries and connections, rather than our disconnected lines of communication.

In the community of Asa Branca, a small favela in Rio de Janeiro, growth is limited by proximity to nearby construction jobs. Better roads were needed, but since local government officials refused to get involved, the people had to create their own infrastructure.

Link to a map of Asa Branca:

Gradually, the original dirt roads were paved: for each street that was improved, every household bordering it contributed materials and supplies. The inhabitants also contributed their time to the construction process.

Read more about Infrastructure in Asa Branca at:

The concept of shelter can go beyond the idea of protection from the elements. Equally important is protection from the problems of crime and violence. In The Social Impact of Urban Design, Lee Rainwater points out that people “use space and barriers to further their defence against these various dangers.” (Rainwater 20) In Asa Branca, the improvement of transportation has an odd relationship with the provision of defensive shelter.

On the edge of the community is a doorway leading to the outside. Apparently making use of the upgraded roads, thieves on motorbikes would use this opening as an exit point after robberies. The people of the area came up with an extremely simple solution: they placed a thick metal pole in the centre of the doorway, allowing pedestrians to pass through, but blocking the way of other vehicles. This has contributed to Asa Branca’s current low crime rate and continued improvement.

From the water bottles of Kibera to the roads and built environment of Asa Branca, people in subsistence communities throughout the world are creating simple, logical solutions in response to particular problems they face. We have to awaken ourselves to our changing world, and ensure that these innovations do not slip under our bureaucratic, system-enslaved noses.


Clark, David. Urban World / Global City. London: Routledge, 1996.

"Galeria pública de Asa Branca," (accessed November 4, 2009).

Laquian, A.A., and Yeh, Stephen H.K. Housing Asia's Millions. Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 1979.

Patrick Donohue, "Side Effects - A Day in the Community," (accessed November 4, 2009).

Rainwater, Lee. The Social Impact of Urban Design. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.

“Road,” (accessed November 4, 2009).

“River,” (accessed November 4, 2009).

Sarah Stuttville, "Kenyans Tap Sun to Make Dirty Water Sparkle," April 13, 2008, (accessed November 4, 2009).

Simon Morfit, "Community Cohesion in Asa Branca,", (accessed November 4, 2009).

“Wood Shingle Roofing [Online] Available (accessed November 4, 2009).

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Building Shelter

-Milda Miskinyte-

Whether or not we think that shelter is a commodity or a right, we leave most of it up to the real estate market to distribute. People with no available resources to buy homes end up occupying land illegally, mostly around a large metropolis, and building shelters for themselves out of the materials they have at hand – usually commercial or residential waste. Most of the shelters in the world’s ever-growing slums are built from recycled materials.

Here, a boy sits inside a house that he and 14 other slum children helped build out of 10,000 plastic soda bottles in 30 days time in the Piedade slum, north of Rio de Janeiro. Plastic waste is the scourge of many mega cities and proper recycling facilities are often missing. Often, there is no functioning recycling system. The bartender next door supervised the building of the house to give the children an educational activity and clean the Guanabara Bay of thousands of bottles.

Ideas like this are borrowed and applied in the Western world. Dan Phillips started Phoenix Commotion, a construction business in his hometown, Huntsville, Tex., where he builds low-income housing out of salvaged items. Here, the reclaimed wood front door window is composed of the bases of old wine bottles.

Cargo container homes are popular because they are very resistant to fire, commonplace in slums. Because it is cheaper for a shipping company to buy new containers than to transport empty ones back to the origin, a stockpile of containers is created in port areas.

It is interesting that these shipping containers also interest people who can afford conventional housing, but, learning from the innovative ways slum-dwellers use recycled material as housing, choose to live and work in these alternatives.

This award-winning office design by Clive Wilkinson is made out of stacked shipping containers is the home office of Palotta TeamWorks, a US charity event company. The 47,000 square foot warehouse is filled with shipping containers that have been transformed into modern office spaces. This design layout saved the company money on construction costs, and it allowed the entire space to be more open and airy.

Abandoned train cars have also become home to many. Perhaps the most bizarre train reuse is the Russian trend of converting old train cars into Orthodox Christian churches. They range from the simple repurposing to the elaborate redesign, complete with adding an entirely new facade.

However, the price of fully converting these types of otherwise wasted material into comfortable homes with proper insulation/ventilation is, by slum standards, too high, so there is a need for sustainable, recycled, cheap housing for people who live in slums. Plausible designs for this kind of housing already exist, some already standing. The following is affordable dwelling for slums of Nairobi made from recycled materials designed by Jennifer Margell. The roofs of these homes are made to collect and filter gray water and rainwater, and they can also be opened to let out heat. The recycled plastic walls are made hollow, where the spaces are later filled with mud to serve as insulation. The green houses also provide an option for a bathroom with a self-composting toilet. The water storage tank is placed behind the bathroom, and keeps the utilities in one central area.

Perhaps, the inhabitants of these two different worlds – the slum and the conventional city – can continue to exchange ideas and learn from each other in order to help each other to face and fix the problems that they are encountering together: increasing world population, depletion of natural resources, increasing number of natural disasters caused by global warming, etc.


Allianz. Recycle and Build.

Ecofriend. Eco Homes: Affordable dwelling for slums of Nairobi made from recycled materials.

Open Architecture Network. Creative Adaptable Shelter.

Web Urbanist. 10 Clever Architectural Creations Using Cargo Containers: Shipping Container Homes and Offices.

Web Urbanist. How to Subvert Your House: Buying, Designing and Building Cargo Container Homes.

Web Urbanist. All Aboard! Clever Recycled Train Car Homes, Offices & Hotels.

Where. Squatting in America.

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Straw Bale Alternative

-Anahita Farahani-

Slums are not what is wrong with urbanity in today’s modern world - although they require some reassessment they do carry certain advantages. They are situated extremely close to city centers, they carry a great entrepreneurial enthusiasm, as well as a tightly-knit community. Slums in a way are also environmentally friendly because the building materials they use would have been put towards a piling landfill anyway. Some urban planners advise we should completely destroy these residencies and replace them with entirely new projects. This method usually fails and in turn not only relocates slums but disrupts neighborhoods that had a development potential. Sometimes a little encouragement rather than destruction can be very beneficial in these situations. In some regions they are jumping on this idea by diminishing the problems within instead of completely destroying the slums themselves.

"We should not dismiss them because they look ugly, they look messy - they have sophisticated, participatory practices, a light way of occupying the land. Because people are trying to survive, creativity flourishes." - Teddy Cruz (Architect)

A green architecture firm from Berkeley - Daniel Smith & Associates are exploring and experimenting with the natural material of straw bale for housing construction. There are many benefits that come along with using straw bale - for example; the material is much stronger than a heavy stud wall and with the proper connections and stronger mesh and plasters its performance can exceed that of a plywood shear wall. The straw bale is able to take in a great deal of force in a way that eliminates cracking and breaking and instead absorbs the energy. Since straw bale is so thick walled and high in mass it is even able to react well in Earthquake-prone regions. Another benefactor would be the feature that straw bale has an even mix between insulation and thermal mass.

Daniel Smith and Associates are currently working on developing low cost minimal straw bale houses for Pakistan’s earthquake zones. The buildings are very small (400 - 500 square feet) and are built from only a couple thousand dollars for material costs (half the cost of a. This type of housing becomes very efficient to not only neighborhoods that are situated in disaster sectors but would be incredibly useful to neighborhoods that require more affordable living conditions.

The firm’s Kelly Lerner has also successfully helped with building straw bale housing in Mongolia and China. In Mongolia where the temperatures can reach 40 below, the straw bale houses still have not really required the installation of insulation. This is not only energy efficient but also cost efficient.

If people were able to get their hands on a cheaper material that is also stronger and more effective on a number of levels they would love to build a house out of it. A possible shelter development idea for slums would be to improve their way of living by making straw bale a more available material. The material itself is extremely abundant and more renewable than wood but we need to stir more awareness on the straw bale alternative.


1. Tuhus-Dubrow, Rebecca. "Learning From Slums." Boston Globe.

2. Daniel Smith & Associates Architects . .

3. Waxman, Matt. "Architect Daniel Smith: The Strength in Straw ." Worldchanging.

4. Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. : Pelican , 1965.

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Traversing the Plane - I

-Jeff Nadeau-

Okay. “Think Discovery Channel.”

Proceeding from my earlier post highlighting the political and economic isolation of non-planned urban settlement, I’m going to lay out an informal survey discussing how people get from one Point to another, across the Plane and in the absence or shortage of Lines.

I think if Don were describing this, he’d call it a bit shaggy—on the other hand, this is not metaphorical or hypothetical. My research here is essentially all fieldwork: a relatively short two-month period of participant observation in various forms of public transport in Santo Domingo.

The humblest conveyance with which I am acquainted (barring perhaps the donkey and cart which, while occasionally in evidence on the streets, really have no place in four-lane traffic in a city of 2.2 million) is the motoconcho. Essentially this is a motorcyclist for hire, frequently on a Chinese-made 125cc two-stroke or the ubiquitous Honda Cub. Being a small vehicle, it can better navigate congested roads (common in countries with underdeveloped infrastructure) than a car. Transportation along similar principles can be found worldwide- perhaps most iconically in Africa, and also in the autorickshaws of southern Asia.

Flickr, niniferrose's photostream,

They are inexpensive to buy and operate, and thus accessible to individual entrepreneurs. They are also simply constructed. This is especially advantageous in informal economies where income-generating work is scarce- one might not take a faulty bike to a shop, but rather to a mechanically-inclined neighbour in exchange for a service or a favour.

In a world short on capital, goods are fixed many times before they are replaced and it is not uncommon to see vehicles with a service life of decades. This was most evident in the publicar system of Santo Domingo: a fleet of well-worn cars operating on several fixed routes across the city, stopping to collect passengers whenever flagged down. These vehicles- usually late-model Japanese imports like Toyota Corollas- were often falling to pieces, some approaching thirty years old, and still crossing the city dozens of times a day.

Publicar - source lost, but a good view of a little-documented subject.

Though crowded, with cars picking up passengers literally until no more will fit, this system worked remarkably well. Publicar ridership was cheap, it seemed popular, and it combined the stop-anywhere freedom of a taxi with the cost-effectiveness of a fixed route laid out according to rider demand.

I can also claim some familiarity with the public buses known as guagua or as voladoras, "flyers," a name which a local friend attributed to the recklessness of the drivers. These don't differ too much from the public buses we are accustomed to in Canada, aside perhaps in terms of overcrowding and driver professionalism.

There is also the informal transportation provided by good samaritans- trucks operating at below capacity, or serving as de facto school buses in some areas- again, while an interesting case and certainly deserving of some attention, this is just an informal institution.

The motoconcho and the publicar, on the other hand, are effective examples of cellular organization and should illustrate some general principles relating subsistence urbanity that I will discuss in my next entry.

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Acting Out Against Water Related Diseases

Categories of Water-, Sanitation, and Hygiene-related diseases

Caused by the ingestion of water contaminated by human or animal excreta or urine containing pathogenic bacteria or viruses; includes cholera, typhoid, amoebic and bacillary dysentery, and other diarrheal diseases.

Caused by the parasites found in the intermediate organisms living in water; includes dracunculiasis, schoistosomiasis, and some other helminths.

Caused by microorganisms with life cycles associated with insects that live or breed in water; includes dengue fever, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis, and yellow fever.

Water Collection and Storage
Caused by contamination that occurs during or after collection,often because of poorly designed, open containers and improper hygiene and handling.

Caused by toxic bacteria, such as cyanobacteria, which are linked to eutrophication of surface-water bodies; causes gastrointestinal and hepatic illnesses.

Direct Effects:
  • Nearly 60% of infant mortality is linkedto infectious diseases, most of them water, sanitation, and hygiene related

  • "Diarrhea, the third largest cause of morbidity and the sixth largest cause of mortality."

  • "A study conducted by the Pacific Institute estimated that if no action is taken to address the lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene, as many as 135 million preventable deaths will occur by 2020."

Adverse Effects:

  • The collection of water is primarily the responsibility of women and children; up to six hours a day can be delegated to meeting this need. As a result children and deprived from schools and women are not given the opportunity to work.

  • It limits the ability to grow and water vegetables, depriving the people of essential nutrients needed to fight disease

  • Long term affects of diarrheal diseases have been liked to malnutrition and reduced cognitive function in children.

A Shift to Household Technologies

"Lending institutions and national governments have traditionally focused on the implementation of large, centralized treatment systems. Such systems do not serve rural areas where populations are dispersed and the proportion served is less than half that in urban areas. Rapidly growing, unplanned, periurban areas are also not effectively served by centralized systems. Centralized approaches are often plagued by high capital costs, lack of proper operation, and an overreliance on treatment technologies that cannot be afforded or maintained. Given the shortfalls of centralized systems, it is apparent that a variety of options are needed, especially in developing countries, where conditions are challenging. A decentralized approach that relies on household water treatment sanitation technologies may present a viable alternative.

POU treatment (Point of Use). POU treatment offers a locally modified and managed solution in areas where centralized systems are ineffective. The critical advantage of POU treatment is that it provides a barrier to pathogen exposure immediately before consumption. Even when source water is deemed "safe," poor hygiene during collection, storage, and handling of water results in contamination. For example, reduction in diarrheal diseases is doubled when water is treated immediately before use. Therefore, for maintaining the quality of treated water with the home, safe storage is an important complent to POU. An extensive review of POU technologies concluded that "simple, acceptable, low-cost interventions at the household and community level are capable of dramatically improving the microbial quality of household stored water and reducing the attendant risks of diarrheal disease and death. In laboratory studies, POU technologies have demonstrated removal and/or inactivation of pathogens at varying rates. PUR, a flocculent/disinfectant that is sold in individual packets, is the most effective, providing >7 log removal of bacteria and > 4 log of viruses. Chlorine bleach typically achieves only 2 log removal for both bacteria and and viruses"

The article goes onto state that "health. gains from POU techniques will only be realized if treatment is effective in the communities where such technologies are used," also stating that the use of POU treatments have demonstrated a "reduction of diarrhea by 40% for PUR and solar disenfection and by up to 85% for chlorine in places such as Guatemala and India. The results suggest that "although chlorine is less effective in removing bacteria and viruses, it may lead to greater reduction in diarrhea because of economic and cultural advantages relating to low cost, ease of use and its ability to be manufactured locally." In any case, the article gives valid evidence toward a decentralized approach of a means of treating water problems in underdeveloped or slum-like conditions.

Providing individuals with a means of disinfecting their own water sources adheres both to settlement patterns as well as transportation/travel. In doing so, you are eliminating the distanced of travel faced by families in search of viable water sources and are ultimately allowing families to focus on other things besides walking for hours on end. Consequently, issues surrounding distances faced by people living in rural areas are also mediated, where other forms of aid would focus toward urban areas. The issue that arises from this form of technology is identifying how to distribute it to the individuals in need. As was stated in the article, evidence has also shown that chlorine alone can be an effective deterrent of diarrhea, even though it is not as effective in terms of a disinfectant. This is purely based on accessibility rather than viability, something not inherently surprising in an environment where means of transporation are likely sparce. The more viable choice, therefore, may be simply chlorine based products that can easily be manufactured within the area itself.

Mara, D.D (2003) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for the health of developing nations. Public Health. vol. 117, no 6, 452 - 456.

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The Means of Survival

Slums are created from a series of forces: rapid rural to urban migration, increasing urban poverty, decay in infrastructure, lack of secure tenure, etc. As a result, these people have nowhere to go and nowhere to live and thus squatters settle near urban dwellings creating slums. What is common among any slum is inadequate shelter and the lack of planning. There are alleyways between homes that are often places of violence and sewage is disposed of in the streets. The inevitability of the slum dweller and their lives are caused by the surroundings they live in. Improving housing is improving life by creating employment from building and maintenance to a safer community through the organizations and networks of people.

I have looked into shelter solutions that are currently in practice in organizations looking to improve living conditions or provide disaster relief.

sheltertheworld- funding shelters for the homeless around the world. They work with IADDIC shelters to build rigid class houses that only require 2 people to erect. They are resistant to rot, mold, fire, insects and are fully insulated. For more information visit IADDIC's main website.

Concrete Canvas Shelters- I found this product while watching and episode of
daily planet. The shelter is described as a rapidly deployable hardened shelter that requires water and air to erect.

Water Shelter- Developed by Robert Nightingale. Designed for people in developing countries where floods are a common occurrence. It has been designed so users are self sufficient and target four major needs: shelter, water, product transport and information.

However, the solution cannot be solely put on adequate shelter. Survival also depends on other basic needs such as water. Clean drinking water is hard to find and in many parts of the world the demand for water exceeds the supply. Proper sanitation, filtration and storage must be considered as well and in a world with very few resources and technology, this is a huge obstacle to overcome.

Access to water is essential to life and overall well being. Early settlements have developed based on this need and the inability to find a source of portable water. Before the invention of clay pots and containers, people did not have the means to transport water from the rivers to their homes. Therefore, homes were situated right beside the water source to eliminate the issue of transport. In the modern age, we do not have the luxury of simply settling by the water and if we do it is often not safe to drink. As a result, water scarcity is a global problem but more so in the Third World. The United Nations Development Program estimate that 1.1 billion people lack safe water supply and even more do not have access to proper sanitation. The problem in many third world countries is not necessarily that they lack the sufficient resource of water but rather they lack the technology to extract and distribute it to their communities. Transportation of water through pipelines or trucks is often difficult because of poorly developed infrastructure.

Reach Out Water Solutions is an organization that helps in the supply of water to slum communities. They have created a efficient model that has worked in many projects.
Its seems that we are finding a trend among the many issues surrounding subsistence urbanity in that lack of transportation is impeding developing. Whether it is the transportation of resources to communities, people to their jobs or information from the world, transportation is the key to survival and growth. seems that we are finding a trend among the many issues surrounding subsistence urbanity in that lack of transportation is impeding developing. Whether it is the transportation of resources to communities, people to their jobs or information from the world, transportation is the key to survival and growth.

There is no doubt that investing in transportation can improve the overall situation of slum developments but careful considerations must be made to make the most of the few resources available. Many of these people rely on basic modes of transportation such as walking or cycling because they are too poor to afford motorized vehicles. In the past, much emphasis has been put on road construction to promote development in these areas. However, without any public transit put into place, roads were of no use to the poor as they were often displaced or had to revert back to the basic means of transport.

The implementation of a bus based mass transit system can benefit the poor which has been used in places such as Latin America. Operating costs were covered by passenger revenues , private owners covered the costs of buses and the construction and maintenance of infrastructure were publicly funded. In Bogota, Columbia, 37% of people who use the public mass transportation system are classified as poor and 47% are of middle income. Passengers saved $134 and 325 hours a year due to lower travel costs and shorter travel time. This system mainly benefits the lower income bracket and at the same time it is not heavily reliant on the wealthy to pick up the costs. Transportation can create employment opportunities through road construction and bus operation. Subsidizing bicycle ownership is another possibility in improving transport and could prove to be less costly than subsidizing road construction in slums. With improved transportation, time and money will be saved and therefore more income to flow back into the economy.

A physical network of roads, pipelines and various means of transportation link communities together but looking at a greater scale communications through a virtual network has the possibility of bringing the rich and the poor together creating a greater community working to improve the standard of living in the world as a whole. Many places are doing this already through the use of mobile phone services and the internet.

Companies such as GrameenPhone in Bangladesh have been practicing corporate social responsibility through programs to alleviate poverty. One of which is called Village Phone, allowing rural areas to have greater connectivity and has resulted in a consumer surplus for many of the people involved in their program. Village phones is an owner operated pay phone that generates money by selling this service to other villagers. This program is generally geared toward women to allow equal income earning opportunity which is quite rare otherwise. GrameenPhone's goal in their programs are to increase connectivity from urban to rural, spurring development and in the process provide employment and an overall easier way of living.

For more information visit
GrameenPhone Official Site

Viva Favela is an organization that aims to reduce social inequality and giving a voice to people in the slums through the investment in information and communications technologies. Correspondents of Viva Favela are slum dwellers that act as reporters to show another slide of living that is not communicated in the media. Viva Favela challenges typical views and shows the potential of positive social change. This organization has helped find employment for youth and provides the latest health information to their communities.

Visit Viva Favela

Connectivity is a huge factor in development and we must look beyond the traditional means to create a sustainable environment and promote growth in a subsistence world.

Divided City: Information Poverty in Nairobi's Slums


Brugmann, Jeb. Welcome to the Urban Revolution: How Cities Are Changing the World. New York: St Martins Pr, 2009.

"Corporate Social Responsibility ." Grameenphone Official site . (accessed October 30, 2009).

Davis, Mike. Planet of Slums. New York: Verso, 2006.

"Iaddic Shelters." Rigid Shelter Solutions. (accessed October 30, 2009).

Larson, Douglas. The Urban Cliff Revolution: New Findings on the Origins and Evolution of Human Habitats. Markham, Ontario: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2004.

"ReachoutWater." The Slum Water Program. (accessed October 30, 2009).

"Shelter The World ." Shelter The World . (accessed October 30, 2009).

United Nations Publications. "The Free Online Library." Divided City: Information Poverty in Nairobi's Slums.. (accessed October 30, 2009).

"Viva Favela." An Inside Look at Viva Favela. (accessed October 31, 2009).

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